This book was reviewed for Manhattan and Seattle Book Reviews and via Netgalley
Drawing on sources previously unavailable, Baird gives us an intimate look at the Queen who defined and gave name to an entire era. I will admit, I am a huge fan of the Victorian Period from a historical/literary perspective, but for all that, I knew very little about the Queen herself.
Victoria: The Queen is a monster of a book, at over five hundred pages. We follow the Queen-to-be from birth, through her long and illustrious life. Far from the dour and reclusive person that is the common perception, Victoria was a fiery, strong-willed woman with a stubborn streak a mile long. It was the continuing contention from the era previous, and down through the Victorian, that women were supposed to be meek and submit to the men in their lives. That Victoria ruled the greatest Empire of the time, and often refused to give in to the ‘well-meaning’ men in her life speaks volumes to her character. I think she would have been wonderful to have met in person.
Interspersed throughout are snippets from Victoria’s own journals, and historic notes of the times. I can empathise, across the ages, with Victoria’s frustrations and antagonistic relationship with her mother. My own has been rather similar. It was quite interesting to see the later parallels between Victoria’s relationship with her mother, and her own later relationships with her own children. Via nature and nurture, for better or worse, Victoria shared many traits with her mother. The stubbornness for one, and a need for control that caused others to chafe at times. Victoria was lucky to find such a perfect balanced opposite in her husband, Prince Albert. Here’s another figure I knew very little about. He, too, seems a fascinating person. From his description, he seems more introverted than Victoria, prizing deep conversation to frivolity.
Some of the more detailed historical notes of the times I just had to shake my head at, such as the notions surrounding pregnancy,birth, and women’s sexuality. There were plenty of ‘wtf’ moments, to be sure. For a time of such ‘enlightenment’, the people of the times seem pretty dense when it came to a lot of things. While the Victorian Era will likely always fascinate me, would I want to live during this time? Absolutely not! Haha. I did find Baird’s intimations that Albert shaped more of the era than most realise, and that, had circumstances played out differently, we may well have had an era named for him instead!
Baird pulled no punches with this exhaustive biography, to be sure. We see Victoria and her best, and her worst, at her most regal, and her most human. She ascended the throne at a young age, and had need to mature as a monarch. Mistakes were made, some serious, such as the incident with Lady Flora, early in her reign. But from most mistakes, Victoria did learn and grow, leaving behind an enduring legacy.
📚📚📚📚📚 Highly recommended, if you have an interest in the Victorian Era, Queen Victoria herself, or are a history buff in general.